Tabs or extra line?

Alright, I have a kind of tricky question I would like to ask. It’s simple but pulling me around.
Would you rather get a paragraph break (2 new lines at the end of a paragraph) or a tab break (a new line and then a tab)?

For example, paragraph breaks are fine and easy to use but look less… I don’t know, “cool”? Whereas tabs are nice and well-featured (personally) but in some cases (especially long amounts of text) you start to lose track of location when reading easier and looks a little messier.

Examples of both are below:
Paragraph breaks

(Nice, looks a little less professional in my opinion)


(Although it looks nice now, wait until you see long amounts of text)


I figure the simpler typography IF style of using paragraph breaks started with the low resolutions of the original displays that were serving the games.

Today we don’t have to worry about resolution, but IF interpreters don’t muck around with quasi-linespacing. In other words, in a printed book, you might get a tiny bit of extra space added after a paragraph ends that helps the next tabbed paragraph look more separate.

For whatever reasons – the old tech history? A well-established tradition? The fact it would add a layer of complexity to programming these games that sits in a grey area between interpreter and story file, and that that grey area is already troublesome enough? – it hasn’t been adopted in parser games.

Maybe it’d work best as preference(s) you could toggle in an interpreter.



I prefer the former. But, hey, you’ve given me an idea because i do “muck around with quasi-linespacing”. :slight_smile:

Currently i have text that takes a new line and some paragraphs are separated by a blank line. The blank line is currently one text line high. I’m going to experiment with a different line spacing for such blanks.

However, it may look worse. I discovered a while back that messing with variable line spacing makes the page look worse to the eye.

     Here is the text before the "barrier". 
     +------------------+ And this text flows
     |                  | around the barrier.
     |                  | 
     |                  | Sometimes we get a 
     |                  | blank here too.
     |                  |
     |                  | And then the text gets
     |                  | to the end of the barrier
     +------------------+ But, Oh dear, what if the
     barrier is not an exact number of lines high?
     Well it is here in ASCII, but actually you
     have to layout the text line spacing consistent
     anyway. Otherwise the vertical space between
     the words "Oh dear" and the word "number" is
     different from all the other lines and looks

But despite that, the blank line space could be different so long as it were consistent.

I think i’ll try it.


I’m favouring not only the para break, but also the “interactive break”, that is, “press space for more”, whose is also a nudge to the player that the paragraph just ended IS important…
Occaionally I use a newline plus single space as “sub-paragraph break” of sort, but often I’m not precisely satisfied of the resulting outcome…

EDIT: in one of my WIPs, the interactive break gives a rather excellent dramatic narration, or at least this is my hope.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


Good point. I’m currently wrestling with this “more” problem;

To what extent should the “more” be authored. As you are correct, in that it is often used for dramatic effect.

Then there are “more”, for when there is just too much text. And since the screen size is undefined, how should any "auto-more"s interface to authored "more"s. Because you could have a situation where an auto-more is taken, then in just a few lines the game encounters an “authored-more”, leading to an untidy effect.


I think it depends on what is being printed. Paragraph breaks are an old IF custom, it’s true, but they are also the default in many contemporary authoring tools, i.e., MS Word and Wordpress. I use tabs in documents that are supposedly “in print” or meant to imitate printed materials, but, even in those cases, I use breaks. I consider them more accessible. They are more accessible for me, in any case.


Yeah, there will be at least two books, which have the tabs, and I’ve kept them that way. I just can’t tell what I should do for the main text. (You see, I’m using Zork Zero’s source code and stripping that down; and Z0 uses tabs. Generally I think it easier in coding to use breaks, but I wonder if it’s worth it. All the same, I’ve already made it so that I can switch between at any time I want.)

1 Like

Thanks for the help, guys! I think I’ll stick to paragraph breaks.


I like the “book” look of one new line plus an indent, for longish blocks of text that all go together (like a room desc or a more involved action response). I like the paragraph breaks to set off special descs of important objects, portables list, npc “turns”, and room atmosphere…
But I had to do a lot of work to implement it…


Paragraph breaks because:

  • This is the modern convention (see next point).
  • Left justification is easier for eye tracking due to ergonomic considerations.
  • If you have one indented paragraph, then every paragraph should be indented and this looks like a mad woman’s breakfast when you have a command line (not indented) followed by a short response (indented).
  • Various interpreters may not treat tabs the same way, e.g. how many spaces is the tab?

Even in printed materials I find the line break easier to read. I generally configure anything I write in LaTeX to do that instead of indentation.


For me, any prose paragraph following another one should be indented (tabbed line breaks as the op named them) with no extra vertical whitespace whatsoever.

This is so important to me such that if I have an epub that uses paragraph breaks with extra whitespace line, I open it up in Sigil and search and replace them with “proper” paragraphs before reading them. Any extra whitespace lines has to signify semantic breaks in the flow of the text, like blockquotes, figures, verse, letters, etc.


ok. i tried “compact” paragraph breaks. Reducing the gap to less than one line height. I think this is better (for those who like this form). Although, there’s an option to get “full break space”.


Woah! Did you write that text?

1 Like

not exactly;

prompt: describe Magrathea in the style of Douglas Adams



A lot of paragraphs in books are walls of text individually, compared to IF. Maybe with more, shorter paragraphs you need more separation to make them legible.